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Parashat Noach - Ignorance or Defiance?
Marc Chagall

Ignorance or Defiance?

Further thoughts on Parashat Noach

by John J. Parsons

What do you think, is it worse to ignore or to defy God?  The Torah portion this week (Noach) states that the generation of the Flood regularly ignored God, while the builders of the Tower of Bavel defiantly sought to overthrow His authority.  On the surface it might seem that the latter were more sinful than the former, but it was the generation of the Flood that was annihilated, while the generation of the Tower were merely thwarted in their plans...

The sages address this in one place as follows: "...Who is worse, the one who says to the king, 'Either you are in the palace, or I am,' or the one who says, 'I am in the palace, and you are not'? Certainly, the one who says, 'I am in the palace, and you are not'!  This is what the generation of the Flood said, 'Who is the Almighty that we should serve Him? And what will we gain if we implore Him?' (Job 21:15). The generation of the Tower said, 'It is not fair that He should choose the upper worlds for Himself and give us the lower worlds. So, come let us make ourselves a Tower and place an idol at the top with a sword in its hand appearing to go to war against Him'" (Bereshit Rabbah 38:6).

The generation of the Flood was said to be "filled with violence" (Gen. 6:13) caused by ignorance -- literally the "state of ignoring" moral and spiritual truth. Because they willingly disregarded God from their midst, they (humanistically) arrogated to themselves divine prerogatives: "every man did what was right in his own eyes."  The resulting moral corruption and anarchy led to divine and catastrophic judgment: when God destroyed them with water, they return the world to its original state of tohu vavohu v'choshekh: "confusion and emptiness and darkness" (Gen. 1:2).

The generation of the Tower, on the other hand, overtly rebelled against God. Instead of obeying God's command to fill "all the earth" after the Flood (Gen. 9:1; 10:32), the descendants of Noach said, "Come, let us build us a city and a Tower (מִגְדָּל) with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed (נָפוּץ, "overflowed") across the face of the whole earth" (Gen. 11:4). The rise of the Tower (ziggurat) became symbolic of their quest to "make a name" for themselves -- a "collective name" decreed by the hand of arbitrary human tyranny (i.e., Nimrod). The individual was regarded as subservient to the collective good of the State. Only the State could guarantee human safety and perpetuity in light of the possible hostility that might descend from heaven itself... Therefore the Tower was set up to circumvent the threat of further judgment from heaven. God's judgment on the generation of the Tower was confusion, the destruction of their hubris (i.e, the Tower), and the forcible fulfillment of His commandment to replenish the earth by means of a global dispersion.

So while it is certainly wicked to either ignore or defy God, it is apparently worse to disregard His presence and live as if He were not really there.  And this, in part, explains the rampant wickedness of our age, an epoch very similar to the "days of Noah."  The great preponderance of people in the world have become so dull of hearing, so numb, so insensate, so indoctrinated, so propagandized, etc., that they are simply indifferent to the truth status of religion.  We are not faced so much with rebels who wish to argue about the truth of faith than we are faced with a "zombie" culture that is incapable of comprehending the issues (for more about this, see "The Days of Noah"). 

Prophetically, the "days of Noah" are a picture of the idolatrous conditions of the world that prevail just before the calling up of the followers of Yeshua before the time of Great Tribulation upon the earth:  "As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man" (Matt. 24:37). There is hope, chaverim. Despite the depravity of the generation of the Flood, we understand Noach to be a picture of Yeshua our Messiah and Savior (for more about this, see "Noah and Jesus").

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